Louisville was looking for a big time, signature win to put on their NCAA Tournament resume: mission accomplished.
Peyton Siva was huge today, and I think I’m shortchanging him with that comment. Siva led Louisville with 19 points, but forget about the points, UConn could not guard him, no matter who they put on him. Potential national player of the year Kemba Walker tried with no success, Shabazz Napier had no chance, and Donnell Beverly gave it a go with no success.
Quite frankly, the best defender UConn had on Siva was the slick floor at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.
Siva knifed into the lane at will and finished time after time. I thought color analyst Bob Wenzel made a great point when he said Louisville doesn’t even need to set screens for Peyton because the screener would just get in his way. But Peyton didn’t just deliver points, he dished out 7 assists, grabbed 4 rebounds, and notched 3 steals.
Was this Peyton’s best performance at Louisville? Very possible, but without question it was his most clutch.
Speaking of possible best career performances, Terrence Jennings delivered what I would indeed call his best performance at Louisville. Going into the game, you knew the Cards would be without starting center Gorgui Dieng so TJ would have to produce for Louisville to have a chance. And Terrence did.
Playing 39 minutes, TJ finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks. We’ve said all year Louisville does not need to have a dominant post presence to win, they just need a threat, something that causes the defense to at least pay attention when the ball goes to the paint. TJ provided that today.
Terrence’s game today only solidifies my theory I talked about in the West Virginia recap. I said I think when TJ knows it’s up to him and he won’t get pulled, he plays well. We now have the final minutes against Marquette, the stretch against West Virginia, and today’s game as evidence. TJ looked exhausted after the game, as did most of the team, and we’ll see how he does Monday night on short rest.
As good as the players were, it’s time to give Rick Pitino some major credit. Rick took a team picked to finish 8th in the conference and even with nine different incidents of players getting hurt, has Louisville alone in second place in the Big East.
And this team was not exactly full of McDonalds All-Americans to begin with either.
Remember that famous Pitino magic some people claimed was gone? I’d say he still has some of it lying around. I know there’s still a lot of ball to be played, but I think he should be one of the front runners for Big East Coach of the Year. Forget about the talent level, the amount of injuries to key players he’s dealt with is astounding. It’s tough enough for a coach to play with such a motley crew, but having to do it in the Big East is an extremely tough assignment.
Incredible job by Rick to this point.
-Kyle Kuric quietly played a big role in this win. After nearly missing the backboard on his first shot attempt, Kyle kept himself in the game and ended up hitting on 6-8 of his attempts, including 3-5 from three point range. The thing I liked most was the fact Kyle took a few shots with defenders on him, which he does not always do.
Kyle’s such a good shooter, I have been pleading for him to take a few shots that aren’t completely wide open. He did that today and he hit some huge shots in huge spots.
-I’ve refrained from talking about free throw shooting all year, but I can no longer hold back. Louisville made this game much closer than it could have been if they would have made a decent percentage of their foul shots. The Cards only hit on 11-20 and Chris Smith’s two misses late would have cost Louisville the game if UConn made their final shot.
Look, I will only say this: THEY’RE FREE! NO ONE’S ALLOWED TO GUARD YOU! MAKE THE DAMN SHOT!
-No Jim Burr, no Tim Higgins = smile on my face and a great day for everyone
The Cards cannot afford to spend too much time enjoying this win. They return to the floor Monday night at Georgetown, who just knocked off Villanova in Philadelphia and playing some of their best basketball of the year. We’ll preview that game tomorrow, but for now, go out and celebrate Cardinal fans.